Looking further ahead, in order to protect my investment it seems as if I may have to upgrade these tracks, eventually. The key to DRM as Apple implemented it is that it’s centralized; for the tracks to play Apple must continue to operate its authentication service. Now that the company is clearly moving away from DRM, how long can I expect it to maintain that service? Over time, it will inevitably become less and less profitable and more and more of an annoyance to the good folks in Cupertino. And like any network-enabled service, especially one with virtually no revenue growth on its roadmap, it’s susceptible to being shut down at any given point in time.
Of course, I could wait it out and see if, after a few years when Apple tires of supporting these tracks, the company makes some close-out offer of reduced-price upgrades before turning off the lights. But since most of the songs I’ve bought are not from the ‘front catalog,’ it grates me even more that new customers are buying the same songs today for the new, reduced ‘back catalog’ price of US$0.69 each — and getting more usage rights than I got at US$0.99.
As a compromise, I think Apple should offer some threshold at which their per-track upgrade pricing becomes flat pricing. If your upgrade bill amounts to more than say US$20, I say Apple should just let you upgrade your whole library for that total without continuing to rack up per-track fees. The only serious cost involved here is the bandwidth necessary to transfer the tracks, but I’m guessing that’s negligible for Apple beyond US$20 or so. Oh, and there’s the cost that major label recording companies insist on collecting anytime their customers do anything at all with the music they’ve bought. There’s always that.